Blasphemous content: IT ministry upbeat to lift YouTube ban

Published: September 2, 2013
IT ministry upbeat to lift YouTube ban. DESIGN: ANUSHAY FURQAN

IT ministry upbeat to lift YouTube ban. DESIGN: ANUSHAY FURQAN

IT ministry upbeat to lift YouTube ban. DESIGN: ANUSHAY FURQAN Says have got filters to block blasphemous content but will take more time.

The ministry of information technology was upbeat about lifting the ban on video sharing website YouTube after having finally acquired the ‘missing’ filters to block blasphemous content within days but it seems that the matter will consume more time.

On August 22, State Minister for Information Technology Anusha Rehman revealed during a briefing that Pakistan Telecommunication Company Limited (PTCL) had helped to provide filters through which over 4,000 URLs containing blasphemous content were blocked.

The test run of filters did yield results and the ministry was hopeful to convene the Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC) meeting within a week so that the matter regarding opening of YouTube be taken up for an approval. However, the test run is still in process and the IMC has not been convened.

“The IMC meeting has not been convened yet,” said the ministry spokesperson Kamran Ali Khan while talking to The Express Tribune. Responding to a question, he said “the test run [of the filters] is going on and the IMC meeting would be convened once there are desirable results.”

Claining that the meeting would take place in the near future, spokesperson did not give any dates.

The former information technology secretary was transferred and Akhlaq Ahmed Tarar was given this position last week. So Since it is the IT secretary who chairs the IMC meeting, it will take some time for the new secretary to get acquainted with the issue. This can further postpone the meeting.

Pakistan Telecommunication Authority (PTA) had earlier estimated that it would cost $10 million to place filters to block blasphemous content on the internet. It was claimed that there were eight million URLs that contained the blasphemous material.

After having found the mechanism [filters], the PTA was supposed to put it in place and establish a call centre with toll free numbers and email address so that people could report if blasphemous content was uploaded to any URL. The PTCL had provided the filters needed to block the sacrilegious material free of cost.

YouTube was blocked on September 2012, by the IT ministry on the direction of IMC following release of a blasphemous movie that reputed violent protests across the country.

The IMC, constituted by the prime minister in 2006, has the mandate to evaluate and restrict offensive online content in Pakistan. The committee is headed by the IT secretary and has representation from different ministries, including religious affairs and interior, including other agencies.

The IMC had made the decision last September after evaluating the circumstances, and concluded that PTA should block YouTube till further orders. Subsequently, the IT ministry ordered PTA to block the websites. A policy directive was also issued by the ministry in May 2012 to PTA to deploy a state of art solution to block blasphemous and pornographic websites.

State Minister Anusha Rehman had said in a briefing that PTA had failed to implement the ministry’s directive. The reason she gave was that the PTA fell under the Cabinet Division and not the administrative control of the IT ministry.

Published in The Express Tribune, September 2nd, 2013.

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Reader Comments (11)

  • TooTrue
    Sep 2, 2013 - 9:38AM

    Who cares about blasphemy. You don’t approve then don’t watch it. Very simple no other filters needed.


  • Adil Warraich
    Sep 2, 2013 - 10:55AM

    youre faith is youre best filter
    I use proxies to open utube but never visited those URLS ever!


  • Mj
    Sep 2, 2013 - 11:19AM

    Users should be provided the option of turning off the filter if they so choose. Why should everyone have to suffer due to overblown sensibilities of the few?


  • Silas
    Sep 2, 2013 - 11:24AM

    Wasting 1 billion rupees for nothing. Could be used on many other things.


  • vish
    Sep 2, 2013 - 11:45AM

    there are lots of proxies through which people can break it…, simply your filters doen’t work, there are many method to change base URLs, I can develop algorithm for an URL which keeps changing its source each time before getting the page on run time URL so next what?


  • goggi (Lahore)
    Sep 2, 2013 - 12:11PM

    Shutting the eyes from reasoning and living desperately in a world of fabrication!


  • Obaid
    Sep 2, 2013 - 2:06PM


    Be careful mate you are asking for common sense. PTA might filter you


  • Talha
    Sep 2, 2013 - 5:28PM

    This whole situation is such a farce.


  • Izhar Khan
    Sep 2, 2013 - 7:44PM

    What a mess would be there when filtering is done on URLS suggested by people on toll free Number.


  • Bisharat Baloch
    Sep 2, 2013 - 10:58PM

    It’s probably a farce to filter Rs. 1 billion into Anusha Rehman’s pocket.


  • yousafhaque
    Oct 12, 2013 - 2:15AM

    @TooTrue:::I agree with you,but Shhh,@::Obaid is right.Do not hit the bread basket of PTA,they might filter you,otherwise everyone knows that when you don’t want to see a thing,you don’t see it.Filters are not needed either way


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